May 2, 2019

Antiquities looted in Syria and Iraq are sold on Facebook

Facebook is being used by networks of traffickers to buy and sell looted antiquities, the BBC has learned. The BBC has also seen evidence that antiquities are still being smuggled from Iraq and Syria into Turkey, despite a police clampdown and the retreat of the Islamic State group. Roman mosaics still in the ground in Syria are being offered for sale on Facebook pages shown to the BBC by Prof Amr al-Azm, an archaeologist who has had to leave Syria and now works at Shawnee State University in Ohio. On the rooftop terrace of a restaurant overlooking the Bosphorus in the Turkish city of Istanbul, he points to a Facebook photograph of a sculpture which a user in northern Syria claims is from the ancient site of Palmyra, looted and damaged by Islamic State. Millions of pounds worth of looted antiquities have crossed over from Iraq and Syria in recent years, Turkish police told the BBC. Tighter restrictions on the borders have stemmed the flow but despite that and military defeats by the Islamic State group, objects are still being offered for sale.

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